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FirstEnergy Corp. wins “Worst Energy Award” for Worst Environmental Record

Ohio Environmental Council, April 22, 2013

Utility company caught red-handed, claiming it helps customers be “sustainable” and save energy while it works overtime to pull the plug on Ohio’s Energy Efficiency Law. 

FirstEnergy’s award-winning formula: Less energy efficiency = more power sales + more profits + more dangerous air emissions

Environmentalists are recognizing FirstEnergy Corp. with a special Earth Day award for the Ohio corporation with the worst environmental record in Ohio.

Leaders from the Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council, and Environmental Law & Policy Center unveiled the “Worst Energy Award” today in front of First Energy’s corporate headquarters in Akron.

The award – a two-foot tall, wooden “F” painted in red – is meant to call out the utility giant for claiming on its website and in company communications to be environmentally sustainable while it works feverishly at the Statehouse in Columbus to repeal Ohio’s energy efficiency law.

“It’s important that Ohio’s citizens know who is working hardest behind the scenes to hurt the environment,” said Jed Thorp, Conservation Program Manager for Sierra Club Ohio. “On Earth Day and every day, FristEnergy is working overtime to pull the plug on Ohio’s energy efficiency standard. If it succeeds, FirstEnergy will earn more profits, while Ohioans will get stuck with higher energy bills, dirtier air, and more global warming pollution.”

Ohio law requires Ohio’s four investor-owned electric utility companies to shave energy demand each year by increasing amounts, building to 2 percent in energy savings per year. By 2025, the utilities must achieve cumulative energy savings of 22.5 percent and, by 2018, peak demand savings of 7.75 percent.

To comply, utilities are offering customers incentives, such as discounts on energy efficient light bulbs and rebates on energy audits and new, high-efficiency appliances.

Energy efficiency is universally recognized as the cheapest, cleanest, and easiest way for consumers to reduce energy use and save on energy costs.

The Facts

The environmental leaders cited claims by FirstEnergy that they say range from dubious to flat out false:

Claim: In its October 2012 “Sustainability Report,” FirstEnergy stated, “We are dedicated to meeting Ohio’s mandated goals to reduce electricity usage 22.2 percent by 2025 and peak demand 7.75 percent by 2018.”

Fact: Meanwhile, at the Statehouse in Columbus, FirstEnergy launched a behind-the-scenes effort in the Ohio legislature’s lame-duck session to “freeze” the standard at its 2012 benchmark. (Toledo Blade Editorial, Oct. 31, 2012)

Claim: On Oct. 31, 2012 in Toledo, FirstEnergy representatives joined local elected leaders to tell customers that its compliance with Ohio’s energy efficiency standard would:

  • Save customers up to $720 million over the life of the programs and reduce demand for electricity by more than 1.3 million megawatt-hours annually, equal to the annual average usage of some 140,000 homes.
  • Reduce customer electricity bills today and make the best use of our energy resources over the long term by delaying the need to build costly new power plants.
  •  Avoid the annual emission of some 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 2,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and support the development of “green jobs” in Ohio.
  • Energy efficiency and demand reduction programs are among the most cost-effective ways to address growing electricity usage. (Source: Oct. 31, 2012 press release by Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara)

Fact: At the same moment that FirstEnergy officials in Toledo were extolling the benefits of the Ohio energy efficiency standard, the company’s Statehouse lobbyists in Columbus were busy trying to scuttle the law.

Claim: In an April 20, 2012 press release, FirstEnergy proclaimed, “Saving energy is a great way to celebrate Earth Day.” 

Fact: This Earth Day, FirstEnergy is continuing its desperate effort to unravel Ohio’s energy efficiency standard. Just two weeks ago (April 9, 2013) in written testimony to the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, FirstEnergy stated:

“…we believe the time is right for the legislature to review and adjust the current law with a sense of urgency. Energy efficiency existed long before these mandates were enacted – and it will continue to be pursued even if Ohio’s energy efficiency law is”

“It’s no secret why FirstEnergy wants to pull Ohio’s energy efficiency law,” said Jack Shaner, Deputy Director of the Ohio Environmental Council. “The more efficiency that’s bid into the marketplace, the more the cost of power generation is suppressed. That means less profit on energy sales. Energy efficiency saves customers money, period. It’s the law of common sense, the law of economics, and the law of Ohio. And you can look it up: OAC Sec. 4901-1-39-04-B requires utility-sponsored efficiency programs to save customers more money than they cost. The most genuine way FirstEnergy can celebrate Earth Day 2013 is to drop its desperate attack on the only guarantee for customer and energy savings-Ohio’s energy efficiency standard.”

“When we decided to give out this award, it was an easy choice to name it after FirstEnergy,” said Seth Johnson, Policy Associate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.  “They really set the bar high this year by going after energy efficiency, since it’s not only good for the environment; it’s good for Ohio consumers.”

The three environmental groups are set to testify on the effectiveness of Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards tomorrow afternoon before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee. The committee is conducting oversight hearings with an eye toward considering possible changes to the standards. To learn more, click here.

Ohio’s Clean Energy Laws are Working

In 2008, Ohio passed landmark legislation (Senate Bill 221 – signed into law, May 1, 2008) aimed at boosting our clean energy economy. Just five years in to this visionary policy, Ohio’s clean energy laws are doing just that.

The Energy Efficiency Resources Standard (EERS) requires Ohio’s four investor-owned electric utility companies to reduce their customer’s power demand each year by increasing amounts, building to 2 percent in energy savings per year.

By law, the four utilities (FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, Duke Energy, and Dayton Power & Light) must achieve cumulative energy savings of 22.5 percent by 2025 and peak demand savings of 7.75 percent by 2018.

To comply, utilities are offering customers incentives, such as discounts on energy efficient light bulbs and rebates on energy audits and new, high-efficiency appliances.

The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires that 12.5% of Ohio’s investor-owned electricity come from renewable resources – like wind, solar and geothermal – by the year 2025.

These two standards are working and are proving to be a boon for Ohio jobs, our economy and the environment.

Since being established, these standards have:

  • Saved electricity customers $1.7 billion on their electric bills.
  • Saved 3.1 million megawatt hours of electricity through efficiency – the equivalent of running a 125 MW power plant 24/7/365.
  • Added more than 400 Megawatts (MW) of wind energy resources to our electric mix and an additional 1300 MW are on the way. 100% of these MW are from facilities located within the state of Ohio.
  • Helped employ 35,000 Ohioans who work in clean energy industries and supply chain companies.